There are lots of reasons why we can find ourselves with fewer friends than we might like. Shyness, social anxiety, losing touch with friends over the years, or struggling to meet people that we share interests with are some common examples.
Many people believe that forming new, meaningful friendships can become trickier with age. Some say this is because making friends requires a certain amount of vulnerability – which may come more naturally when we’re younger. Others agree that it’s to do with having fewer opportunities to meet new people as we once did at places like school or college.
Whatever your reason for not having as many friends as you’d like, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of people in the same boat – and it’s never too late to make long-lasting friendships.
With that said, here are 11 tips for making new friends later in life.
1. Create a friendship with yourself first
One of the most valuable things you can do before setting out to make genuine connections with others is to become friends with yourself first. If you’ve spent many years prioritising things like work or family, it can be easy to forget who you are in a social sense.
To help you rediscover this part of yourself, try asking questions like: what are my hobbies and interests? What kind of friend would I like to be? And what would I like to get out of my friendships?
Some people might be looking to find a friend to chat with over a glass of wine every now and then, while others might like the idea of having a friend to share a hobby with – for example, someone to play tennis or go for a walk with once or twice a week.
If you think you could do with getting to know yourself better before getting to know others, our article, 10 practices for self-exploration, may be a helpful place to start. Often, when we start reconnecting with, or discovering new hobbies and interests, we can carve easier paths to friendships with like-minded people.
2. Join a book club
We all have different hobbies and interests, but reading is something that so many of us can connect to and enjoy in one way or another. Therefore, if you love books and would like to have someone to discuss them with, why not join a book club?
Book clubs are often mixing pots of personalities – and it can be fun and interesting to hear different takes on the same book. Sometimes, you might have little else in common with someone but find a connection over a book you both enjoyed.
Plus, by attending book clubs, we’re more likely to be introduced to titles we might not choose to read otherwise. This can increase our openness and understanding of the world and people around us, which can be a great help in making friends.
If you’d like to find your nearest book club, it’s worth looking online at Reading Groups for Everyone – the UK’s largest reading group network – to find a reading group in your local area.
Or, if a virtual club suits you better, why not check out the book clubs on our Rest Less Events platform? We have clubs which focus on novels, children’s literature and, if you’re short on reading time, short stories.
If you’d like to start your own book club, the BBC website has some helpful advice on how to do this.
3. Take up dog walking
Not only are dogs a great source of fun and comfort, but they can also help us to meet new people. Stopping to chat with strangers when out on a walk can feel easier and more natural if your furry friends give you some common ground.
If you have a dog, you could consider walking him or her in busier spaces where it’ll be difficult not to bump into other dog owners – or even non-dog owners who might want to stop and chat with you about your pooch anyway.
If you don’t have a dog of your own, you can still get involved in dog walking. For example, you could volunteer to walk a dog for someone who’s ill or disabled through The Cinnamon Trust. Or, you could consider becoming a volunteer puppy raiser with Guide Dogs UK.
As well as being a great social activity, dog walking has many other health benefits, which you can read about in our article here.
4. Make use of the internet
Talking to people online can be a low-commitment way to have some interesting conversations and form connections with others.
There have never been more people joining Facebook Groups, friendship apps, and online forums in a bid to meet like-minded people from different corners of the country – or even the world.
Our Rest Less Lifestyle group on Facebook has 13,000 members and is a place where people can discuss the highs and lows of life, share a few jokes, and support each other.
If you fancy something that adds a face-to-face element to socialising online, why not try one of the virtual community events over on Rest Less Events? Some involve chatting over coffee while others are activity-specific – such as Crochet and Chat and Coffee and Crosswords.
Meeting people online can be a particularly helpful first step for people who feel apprehensive about putting themselves out there.
There’s no pressure involved because if you aren’t enjoying a conversation or no longer wish to speak to someone, you can easily take a break or remove yourself from the situation. But, if things go well, you could make some meaningful friendships that flourish both on and offline.
5. Volunteer your time to a good cause
Volunteering can be an effective way to meet new people while giving to a good cause. Before you’ve even spoken to anyone, you’ll already know that you share a common goal – to make a difference in the world.
You’ll also have the chance to build relationships with people of different ages and cultural backgrounds – people often describe volunteer communities as one big, unique family with a desire to do good.
When it comes to volunteering, there are hundreds of opportunities available – from volunteering with animals to becoming a charity shop volunteer. To get inspired and find a role near you, why not check out the volunteering section of our website?
While travel might not always be a possibility, we still think it’s worth a mention here, as it’s a brilliant way to meet new and interesting people. This is true whether you go with others or alone. Although, many would argue that we’re more likely to talk to new people when travelling solo.
Making friends through travel can open up opportunities for work, further travel, and meeting even more people.
While travelling alone might involve stepping outside of your comfort zone – which can be daunting – the freedom and sense of independence that comes with it are often worth taking the leap for.
7. Boost your confidence and self-esteem
A common reason why many people find it difficult to form new friendships is that they don’t feel comfortable going up to someone new and talking to them. Sometimes this is because of feeling shy, but other times it can be due to worrying about what other people will think.
Though feeling this way isn’t unusual, taking steps to boost your confidence and self-esteem can make it easier to overcome that first hurdle.
It can be useful to start by considering why you don’t feel confident. For example, is it a result of past social experiences, even as far back as our school days? If yes, then even a simple exercise such as writing these experiences down on paper, ripping them up, and throwing them away can be cathartic.
Sometimes we just need a reminder that how things turned out in the past isn’t necessarily how they’ll turn out in the future. Yes, you might find making friends a struggle, but this doesn’t make you weird or an outsider – you just haven’t met your tribe yet.
Other ways to boost your confidence and self-esteem can include practising positive thinking, being kind to yourself, and avoiding comparing yourself to others. You can read more about these in our article; 16 ways to improve confidence and self-esteem.
8. Be receptive to friendship
Becoming more receptive to friendship can be as simple as making an effort to make eye contact with people and smile at them as you pass them in the street – or chatting with someone in the post office queue.
While these passing encounters are unlikely to turn into friendships, it can be good to get used to the process of making small talk. This way, it’ll hopefully feel less daunting talking to someone new who you do see a potential friendship with.
When we become more receptive to the people around us, we also tend to appear more approachable, which can help to draw potential friends towards us.
So, if your natural inclination is to avoid eye contact with strangers or to steer clear from a chat with your neighbours, why not challenge yourself to do things differently? You might be pleasantly surprised by the results!
9. Consider who you already know and ask acquaintances out for coffee
When we’re on the lookout for new friends, it can help to take a step back and consider who we might already know. Sometimes, one of the best ways to make meaningful connections is to turn acquaintances into friends.
Perhaps there’s someone at your weekly gym class who you always exchange a brief few words with, but it never goes further than that. Or, maybe you’re friendly with some people at work, but wouldn’t really consider them to be your friends.
It can be helpful to remember that acquaintances are simply people we tend to like and share something in common with, but have never really spent time getting to know.
These connections have great potential because by taking one extra step, we could already be on the way to forming a new friend. So next time you bump into an acquaintance and stop for a chat, why not take the leap and ask if they fancy going for a coffee?
10. Make space and time in your life for new friendships
Before forming any new relationship, it’s worth making sure that you have the space and time in your life to nurture it and help it grow.
Inviting an acquaintance for a coffee, or talking to people through clubs or community groups are helpful first steps – but forming deeper connections requires a certain level of effort and commitment.
At first, this effort might feel a bit like a chore as you attempt to navigate awkward silences and small talk, but, with time and perseverance, this usually gets easier.
If you think about any good friends you’ve had throughout your life, chances are, you can’t remember when those awkward moments stopped and you relaxed around one another. This is because conversations begin to flow gradually without us noticing, so it’s important to trust the process.
11. Keep an open mind
Friendships can be formed in the most unlikely places with the most unlikely people – which is why it’s best to keep an open mind about who you spend time with.
It can be easy to assume that we have nothing in common with someone, though we can’t truly know that until we cast any judgements aside and get to know them.
To give a couple of examples, in 2021, an 83-year-old and a 22-year-old bonded over the Welsh language and created a firm friendship. Mike and Gladys also forged a 20-year friendship after Gladys kept dialling the wrong number.
There’s potential for friendship everywhere – as long as we’re open to giving people a chance
It’s possible to make meaningful, long-lasting friendships at any age by opening yourself up to new opportunities, working on your confidence and self-esteem, and making time and space to get to know new people.
And though it might sound cliche, the saying “There are no strangers; only friends we haven’t met yet” can be a valuable one to remember when we’re looking to connect with others. Once we start seeing every person we meet as a potential friend, the possibilities for friendship become endless.
For more tips and advice, why not check out our article; 9 different ways to meet new people?
Are you looking to make some new friends? Do you have any additional tips that you’d like to share with our readers on how to make meaningful connections? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.